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Posts Tagged ‘new worlds’

New Worlds: Courtship

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

The counterpart to arranged marriages are ones where the spouses choose each other, often referred to as a “love match.” When there’s no matchmaker involved (be it a family member or trained professional), it’s up to interested parties to find and woo their own future husband or wife . . . which can be a very fraught process.

Before we dive too far into that, I should say that there’s often courtship involved in arranged marriages, too. The Japanese matchmaking process is called miai and means “looking at one another;” nowadays it begins with looking at a photograph, but in the past it might instead be kagemi, a “hidden look,” arranging for the man to secretly glimpse the woman without her knowing. If that goes well, the families proceed to their children meeting face-to-face, usually in a series of three dates before a decision is made. European nobility sent portraits as advertisements for their kids, and the prospective pair might exchange letters to get to know one another if they couldn’t meet in person.

But with love matches/autonomous marriage, courtship plays a much larger role, because it’s the means by which people even find possible spouses, conduct their evaluations, and seal the deal. So let’s dig into that.


New Worlds: Matchmaking

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Last year I spent the month of February discussing marriage-related topics. This year, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I’d like to return to that subject — because as I noted at the time, there’s more to talk about than can fit into a mere four essays.

(Spoiler: it won’t fit into eight, either. Though the next time I loop around to this, we’ll be looking more at things on the periphery of marriage, rather than marriage itself.)

I said in those previous essays that historically speaking, marriage tended to be seen less as an alliance between two individuals, and more as an alliance between their families or nations or whatever. Because of this, it isn’t surprising that autonomous marriage — where individuals choose their own spouses, with nobody else getting a say in the matter — was far less common than arranged marriage. Even today, something like half of all marriages worldwide are arranged marriages.


New Worlds: Incense

[Note: As Book View Cafe works on migrating to a better host, this week’s New Worlds Patreon essay is running here.]


It only does so much good to make our bodies smell better if everything around us reeks. So from perfume we turn to incense — and also potpourri, pomanders, scented candles, and everything else you can use to cover up less-than-pleasant aromas in the world around you.

Many of the things one can say about perfume apply here, too. Incense was historically often expensive, because the components were rare or had to be traded across long distances; the kadō art form in Japan and its associated party games exemplify the way its creation and appreciation could be elite activities. You can divide the scents into the same categories as with perfumes and blend them in the same way — though there’s less of a tendency toward gendering in scents for a room than for the body.


New Worlds: Perfume

This week’s essay for the New Worlds Patreon should really be titled “Ways to Make Yourself Smell Good,” because it’s also about scented lotions, oils, soaps, shampoos, bathwater, and everything else we use to counteract our natural tendency toward whiffiness. But “Perfume” was shorter and catchier, so I went with that instead.

Comment over there!

New Worlds: Jewelry

For the time being, Book View Cafe seems to be holding steady, so the New Worlds Patreon has gone back to its usual home there, with a post on jewelry, and the human tendency to hang something shiny off pretty much any body part that can hold it. (And if it can’t hold it, that’s what piercing is for.) Comment over there!

New Worlds: Tattoos

I have hopes that Book View Cafe’s hosting woes will soon be solved, but until that happens, the New Worlds Patreon will continue to run here! (And y’know, 2019 is a splendid time to support your local worldbuilding blogger. I’ll soon be putting out the second collection, and all patrons at the $3 level and above will receive an electronic copy!)


At the beginning of the second year of this Patreon, I did two posts on body modification. Despite devoting so much time to the topic, I only touched on tattoos in passing — because they’re a complex enough topic that I couldn’t possibly do justice to them while also talking about piercings, stretching, bone reshaping, and so forth. Now, as we approach the end of that second year, let’s loop back around and give tattoos their due.

We don’t know for sure how old tattoos are because soft tissue doesn’t preserve well, and the tools of the trade (needles and pigment) aren’t readily distinguishable from the needles and pigment used for other purposes. But we know that Ötzi, the ice-mummified man found in the Alps, had sixty-one tattoos on his body; that rather suggests a well-established tradition, not something he’d made up himself the previous week. Since he died over five thousand years ago, we can safely say the practice is quite ancient.


New Worlds: How to Fight a Duel

Due to Book View Cafe’s ongoing problems with Hostgator (soon to be solved by leaving Hostgator for a company we can actually rely on . . .), this week’s New Worlds Patreon post is here at Swan Tower again!


I couldn’t resist giving this essay that title, but the truth is that I can’t give exact instructions on how to fight a duel, because — like pretty much everything discussed in this Patreon — there’s a lot of variation both geographically and historically. A gun duel on the western frontier of the United States in the nineteenth century was not the same as a sword duel in eighteenth-century London, and neither of them is like an Indonesian knife duel.

But I said in the last essay that for my purposes, a duel is distinguished from any other one-on-one fight by the existence of certain formalities marking it out from normal combat. Those formalities have some common threads, and if we approach a duel sequentially, we can tease those out.


New Worlds: Codes of Honor

Hello, everyone! You may notice that your regularly scheduled New Worlds Patreon essay is in a different place this week. That’s because Book View Cafe, its usual home, has been having massive and ongoing problems with Hostgator, which as of me posting this are not resolved. (And even when it seems like they’re resolved, the site keeps going down again.) So this week I’m posting here on my own blog, and will continue to do so until I’m sure things are stable again over at BVC. (If you’re a regular reader of Swan Tower who doesn’t normally click through to BVC for my Patreon essays, welcome, and I hope you enjoy!)

With that out of the way, let’s get down to business!


Chivalry. Bushidō. Omertà.

Sometimes when we talk about a code of honor, we mean an amorphous thing, a vaguely agreed-upon set of standards that have never been formally defined. Other times, we mean a very well-defined thing, with a name and specific tenets known to all.

. . . or do we?